Day 333 - Three Little Birds

Monday, November 28, 2016 0 Comments A+ a-

A week ago I was elated to have picked up a pair of year birds bringing my grand total in 2016 to 350 species. It was a great milestone to hit, but hopefully not where I would end up. Truth is, it only took one day before I was off on a chase to add another species. Recently a report surfaced of a bird that is rarely encountered in Narnia. It had been several years since the last one was seen, and it just so happened to be one of my nemesis birds for the state. Based on the report there seemed to be a chance that this bird may hang around for a little bit. This meant an immediate chase wasn't necessarily warranted. Last time one was seen, I waited 3 days until the weekend to give chase--I missed the bird by one day.

This time around, I wasn't sure what to do--until I got word the bird was seen multiple times on Monday. It was a short week with Thanksgiving, and I thought I could wait till the weekend and take off for it then. It was in a far off part of Narnia we've talked about several times this year--near Aslan's lair. This meant it wasn't a simple few hours of my time, it was likely an all day event and would be one of a handful of chases like this I've made this year. But could I wait? There were things to consider like holiday traffic, weather, and what if the bird left? Monday night I bounced the idea around in my head until I set my alarm to get up early and chase the bird. It would be a terrible night of sleep as I wrestled with the secrets surrounding chases like this. Not telling a soul what I was doing. It had elements of danger associated with it--but mostly it was just a big farce to everyone else...

My alarm never even had to beep--I was already awake in the dark staring at the ceiling 30 minutes early. I crept from my bed, gathered myself then slunk off to my car. I was off. While I drove I listed to music, a little talk radio, talked to myself a bit about what a lunatic I was being. It felt exactly like the previous 2 times I had done this in 2016. I slipped into the far reaches of Narnia without telling a soul and came back to society later in the day as if it were nothing. Like my other chases I nervously anticipated the sighting--if it were to be at all. I might make this drive, take this day, spend the money on gas and food, and come away empty handed. I might show up to a stakeout full of birders who I have to make up a story to fit the narrative, "I'm just a lister, you know me!".

But none of this would be the case. I arrived at the stakeout all alone. A brisk fall chill was in the air as I crept towards the viewing area. Would the bird be here? I rounded a corner and immediately heard the unique chatter of the aptly named Chattering Hobbit. It flew into view and provided a great look before disappearing into the nearby brush. That was way too easy. I wanted a picture, so I waited and watched. It wasn't long before I spotted the hobbit and was able to take some pictures. I spent a little time trying for better angels and closer shots but kept checking the time. I didn't want to be here too long and risk someone else finding me, I had found the bird, got a photo, and was now sitting at 351 species as undercover as I could be.

I waited a little longer as the light was perfect, but the bird didn't return and some nearby noise was likely the cause. So back to my car I walked, calmly loading my gear, and driving off as if I was never there. Another successful chase. I had a couple hours to burn before I would need to turn around and head back to reality, so I opted for some light birding, followed up by a half-hearted search for one of the few missing breeders in Narnia on my year list. No luck. I left the area, but not before I was seen by another birder. Potentially, one of the other Narnians doing their own big year? I acted as if I hadn't seen them and left quickly, making my way home. My need to try for one bird had yet again put me in an awkward position where someone I know saw me.

Trying not to focus on what had happened I was just glad to have the bird for my Narnia life list, and my year list. The following day I found a report of yet another new year bird. It was the first report of the year and I wasn't going to wait for another. I fought the pre-Thanksgiving traffic, and some questionable weather to spend the last few hours of daylight before the holiday looking for a Dark Flocker. I found it in a sea of other birds, for year bird #352. It was one of the most miserable birding experiences of my year, but one of the highlights given some photos and video I took of other birds.

I had added 2 more birds before Thanksgiving landing me at 9 new year birds in November. What a boost. Thanksgiving came and went, and I didn't go birding--the same for Black Friday. Normally I spend at least a better part of those two days looking for birds, but this year I relaxed. I had done enough chasing during the previous 7 days to take a few off. That didn't mean I wasn't itching to chase yet another rarity that popped up in that time frame. I waited until Saturday before finally sneaking away to look for one of the last members of one of my favorite families of birds that I hadn't seen this year in Narnia. Could I make it 10 new year birds in November? Three little birds in the 4th week of November?

I'll let you know in my next post...

New birds this post: 2
Year List: 352


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I'm on a mission to see as many birds as I can in 2016... within the borders of my home state. The only catch is I'm not telling anyone that I'm doing a Big Year...